Vaccination against rotavirus may prevent seizures

Vaccinating children against rotavirus, a common cause of vomiting and diarrhea, may reduce the risk of related seizures, according to a study recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Daniel Payne, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the study's lead author, and his colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis of approximately a quarter of a million U.S. children. When comparing the 186,502 children who were fully immunized against rotavirus and the 64,099 who were not, the researchers found that the fully vaccinated children were approximately 20 percent less likely to have seizure-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits in the year after vaccination.

"The protective association we found between rotavirus vaccination and seizures is another good reason for having your child fully vaccinated against rotavirus," Payne said.

The researchers said vaccination directly prevents systemic rotavirus infection, including complications related to the central nervous system. A Canadian study in 2007 estimated that seven percent of young patients hospitalized with rotavirus illness experienced seizures.

The study authors estimated that rotavirus infection could save the U.S. more than $7 million in healthcare costs annually by preventing approximately 1,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 emergency room visits for seizures among young children.

"Caring for children who have seizures can be expensive and emotionally taxing for families," Payne said. "Seizures sometimes lead to painful procedures, medication regimens, trips to the emergency room, or hospital stays."

The researchers said the reduction in seizure risk complements the benefits of rotavirus vaccination in reducing doctor's office visits, emergency room visits and hospitalizations for severe diarrhea.